Infotainment: The Dwindling Value of 50 Cent

Today, 50 Cent will release Animal Ambition, his fifth studio album. This should be exciting, or at least an interesting thing. But it’s not, and it’s not.

50 isn’t cool anymore. He’s rich. But he’s not cool. He has muscles. But he’s not cool. He still owns a bulletproof vest. But he’s not cool. And that’s very sad to me. There was a chunk of time — right before, and for several months after, the release of 2003’s Get Rich or Die Tryin’, a legit classic rap album — when he was all I ever wanted to listen to or be, when it seemed like he was all ANYONE ever wanted to listen to or be. I remember watching a 30-minute special MTV ran during the lead-up to the album in which 50 was being interviewed by Sway, sheepishly smiling and softly slurring some of his words and then explaining why he was softly slurring some of his words. It was just perfect and everyone melted over it. It was a moment.

50 was just mesmerizing and charming and situationally terrifying and unstoppably likable and he had a great backstory and a perfect song (“In da Club” is always wonderful, and it always will be). His gravity was so powerful that it yanked lesser players up into the stratosphere with him (someone tell Young Buck I said what’s up, and that he owes me $12 for tricking me into buying his 2010 tape, The Rehab).

So I don’t know what happened. Where did 50 go? What did he do? He’s essentially all the way gone from everyone’s brains right now, which is weird because he’s worked so hard to try to remain in view. Maybe he was just a little tooTooTOO famous, so when he sizzled out he was far too big to become a cult or regional hero (like, say, Juvenile, who is 1,000 years old and is still endlessly dope). Or maybe people just really didn’t like that movie he did with Robert De Niro. I don’t know. I just know that people aren’t checking for him anymore, and it started around his second album and his slow irrelevance has defined him ever since. Which is how we ended up with the infographic below.

It’s a simple enough premise: This chart shows the success (or non-success, if you want to be a tart about it) of the last 30 singles that 50 Cent’s released these past 11 years, starting with the singles from Get Rich or Die Tryin’ and ending before the Animal Ambition tracks he’s released, as measured by the RIAA’s certification scale. (Hi5 to Liz Kennedy from the RIAA for helping me cobble this information together.) If a bulletproof vest is 100 percent visible it means that particular single earned a platinum rating (meaning it’s shipped at least 1,000,000 copies). If a bulletproof vest is 60 percent visible it means the single earned a gold rating (shipped at least 500,000 copies). And if a bulletproof vest is 15 percent visible it means [fart noise, fart noise, fart noise].

But anyway whatever. You have eyes and a brain. You got it. The chart:

50 Cent Album Sales Final

Some important takeaways:

1. Four of 50’s first 10 singles went platinum (and “In da Club” went platinum about 700x, or at least it deserved to) and seven of his first 10 singles went either platinum or gold. SEVEN OF HIS FIRST 10. That’s outer space level. Kanye can keep pace with that (eight of his first 10 singles were platinum or gold). Biggie can keep pace with that (seven of his first 10 singles went platinum or gold). Drake can keep pace with that (Drake actually went nine out of 10, his lone misstep coming with “Fancy,” which featured T.I. and Swizz Beatz. Swizz Beatz is always ruining things). But that’s about it. Some comparisons for context:

  • It took Jay Z 21 singles before he scored his first platinum hit (2000’s “Big Pimpin’”). Conversely, the back end of his catalogue is loaded with platinum and gold certifications. He did the opposite of what 50 did with his career, which looks especially smart right now.
  • Snoop got his first RIAA platinum certification as the primary artist with 1994’s “Gin and Juice,” his second single, but didn’t get his second until 17 years later with 2011’s “Young, Wild and Free.” That’s the song he did with Wiz Khalifa and Bruno Mars, though it’d probably be more appropriate to describe it as “a total poop on the chest” instead of “song.” That’s just me being a stickler for accuracy, I guess.
  • Lil Wayne went 13 singles over six years before getting his first RIAA platinum certification; it took 2005’s “Fireman” to do the trick, which is just preposterous, because 1999’s “Tha Block Is Hot” is an absolutely gorgeous rap song.
  • J. Cole has never scored a platinum hit in his whole life. He’s zero for a million. That’s perfect, if you ask me. (Note: I’d like to say here that these Cole numbers are a guess. I didn’t research him properly. I mean, I tried to, but when my eyes realized what they were reading they jumped out of my skull and climbed into a garbage disposal. I’m typing this blind now. Sorry if I’m misspelling a bunch of words.)

2. 50 Cent hasn’t had a platinum single in America since 2005’s “Window Shopper.” That’s zero for 20, man. That hurts. And only one of those 20 even wiggled its way to a gold rating. That hurts too.

3. While compiling this bulletproof vest data, I was surprised to see that “Ayo Technology” didn’t rate better. I remembered it as a much bigger song than it actually was. The actual song didn’t make any sense (for some reason, 50 and Justin Timberlake, who sang the hook, took a very anti-technology stance), but, whatever, it had Timberlake and Timbaland and that should’ve been good enough to fling it higher up the sales charts. Here’s how toxic 50’s touch had become by then, though: “Ayo Technology” came out in 2007. Go poke around Timberlake’s discography. Poor Justin was so deflated by its stink that he waited six years before putting out another solo album. That’s how that happened. We lost six years of prime Timberlake years because of 50. :(

4. 50 had a song called “Jimmy Crack Corn” in 2007. We should’ve known something was wrong then. We should’ve stepped in and helped. A guy calls a song “Jimmy Crack Corn,” someone needs to arrange an intervention.

5. True and real 50 fans are going to notice that 2009’s “OK, You’re Right” is missing. It was a “single” from Before I Self Destruct and was secretly the best 50 Cent song in years. But I didn’t include it because it was first featured on his mixtape War Angel LP. No matter though. It didn’t get a gold or platinum certification either.

6. Something you can’t see on the chart but could’ve maybe inferred: If we look solely at U.S. sales, 50 has sold nearly 16 million albums. That’s neat and impressive. However, only 3 percent of those sales came from 2009’s Before I Self Destruct. That’s kind of crushing to know. He sold almost 900,000 copies of Get Rich or Die Tryin’ in a week. He’s sold a little more than 500,000 copies of Before I Self Destruct in four and a half years.

7. Please go buy Animal Ambition. It’s not completely bad.

Filed Under: Music, 50 Cent, Get Rich or Die Tryin', Animal AMbition

Shea Serrano is a staff writer for Grantland. His latest book, The Rap Year Book: The Most Important Rap Song From Every Year Since 1979, Discussed, Debated and Deconstructed, is a New York Times best seller and is available everywhere.

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